I have a problem. My problem is I love to move around and see new places and do novel things. ALL THE TIME. This makes it hard to settle down in one place. Recently, I decided on Washington D.C. but this decision came after traveling to many different states and countries. I discovered after over a year of travel, I needed a home but feared the stagnation that comes with choosing a place and settling down. I will walk you through the beginnings of my thirst for change and tell you how I came to the conclusion of settling down in the U.S. Capitol.
My life began in a childhood embedded in constant upheaval and travel. I started in Pennsylvania, living and loving the raw nature of the Pocono Mountains (before they started to build it up with housing developments) where I would see deer, bears, and raccoons on the regular. When I was five, my family (but really my Mom) decided she wanted warmer weather. Thus, we moved 3,000 miles away to the Mojave Desert in Southern California, which is about as opposite to the Poconos as a person can get. This exposed me to a newfound love of the sun, the harsh aesthetic of the desert, and a passion for mountain climbing. When I was thirteen, my parents split up (it was for the best) and after discovering her allergies to everything Mojave Desert. (Even dirt, which is all there is, really.)
Mom decided she wanted to live next to a lake. This took us across the Great Plains to the American South. My Mom chose the Greenwood lake in South Carolina as our new home. This place was greener than the desert but fostered an entirely new culture than what I was previously accustomed. Soon, “you guys” became “Y’all” and if I didn’t say “Yes Ma’am” to all my teachers, I found myself in detention. I remained in South Carolina for about five-years, attended high school and college, and finally grew bored when I was 19.
I decided working fast food and attending college wasn’t the life for me, so I scraped and saved the money and studied abroad in the United Kingdom. Life in the U.K. was dramatically different from anything I had experienced and ignited a fire in my heart for international travel. I was able to travel to Italy while studying there and took in the architectural beauty thousands of years in the making. I decided I would return to Europe one day, and moved back to South Carolina with the embers flaring in my chest.
I remained in South Carolina for about five-years, attended high school and college, and finally grew bored when I was 19. I decided working fast food and attending college wasn’t the life for me, so I scraped to save the money and studied abroad in the United Kingdom. Life in the U.K. was dramatically different from anything I had experienced and ignited a fire in my heart for international travel. I was able to travel to Italy while studying there and took in the architectural beauty thousands of year in the making. I decided I would return to Europe one day, and moved back to South Carolina with the embers flaring in my chest.
After my first bout in Europe, I vowed to take one big adventure every year for the rest of my life. (A big vow to make.) The following year, I took a camp counselor job in New Hampshire, which was me sleeping in a tiny wood cabin with a group of 8-year olds. I loved it! The community atmosphere of working at Camp allowed me to build my own confidence while building the self-esteems of children who needed good role models in their lives.
The year after, I began an application to intern in the U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C. in a prestigious honors program through the University of South Carolina. The application process took about a year to complete, but receiving that acceptance letter never felt better. I packed up my life and moved to Constitution Avenue, just a five-minute walk from Congress and a three-minute walk from the Supreme Court. I was able to do some amazing work for Human Rights Watch and even traveled to New York City to work in collaboration with the United Nations. I was 21 at the time, and staring out from my office in the Empire State building felt like the top of the world.
As I sat in the U.N. Headquarters with some of the top LGBTQ activists in the world, I made another vow to myself: I was going to do work that served the betterment of the world.
The spring semester following my internship at HRW, I graduated from Lander University with Latin Honors, and once again, the itch called. I applied to graduate school abroad and made good on my intrinsic promise to return to Europe by applying to University College of Dublin for a Master of Arts in International Relations. I chose UCD because their program was the only one that allowed me to finish my M.A. in a year while specializing my degree in the disciplines of Human Rights and Economic Development, both important if I wanted to pursue non-profit work.
I used my summer before moving to Dublin to travel and explore Ireland, seeing Cliffs of Moher featured in Harry Potter (Go, Go, Gryffindor!) Galway, Waterford, Belfast, Giants Causeway, the Wicklow Mountains, and much more. (I was able to do this for free because a friend of mine I met at camp worked in the tourism business in Ireland and put me on all the trips for free!) I also traveled to Portugal and enjoyed the warm summer sun in Lisbon, Coimbra, and Algarve while working on my Portuguese. (Obrigada.)
My year in Graduate school allowed me to formulate a flexible schedule around being a TA and student, meaning I was able to take trips across Europe. In my year in Ireland, I went to Germany, France, Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Hungary. Each new place further doused the flames with lighter fluid. (Blue collar background coming in hot.)
Toward the end of my time in Ireland, I had decided Dublin was nice, but ultimately not where I wanted to end up. I had to do a finishing Fellowship for my M.A. thesis, and after considering long and hard, I had begun applying to places in the D.C. area. Then, on the night of my 23rd birthday, I received an email notifying me about an opportunity for a fellowship program in Auckland New Zealand where room and board were free, and I would be able to use my previous skills to gain experience in events. I sent in my application that night and landed the interview for the following Monday within ten hours.
The time between getting accepted to the Fellowship in New Zealand and when I had to leave was about two weeks. Suddenly, I switched gears and planned to spend my summer in the winter down under. Kiwis are probably the nicest people I have ever met in my international experiences, and I ended up living with an adorable vegan lesbian couple who had two dogs and four cats. I was also managing the coordination of events for the National New Zealand Labour Party, which connected me to come amazing people in the higher-ups of New Zealand government. I traveled extensively in New Zealand, hiked volcanoes and glaciers, bathed in a Polynesian Spa overlooking a geyser, skydived over Auckland, learned about the Maori culture by experiencing a Haka, slept in a snowy cabin in Mt. Cook, and cruised my way through Milford Sound. It was busy working 40 hour weeks and sight seeing in every spare minute.
Suddenly, I felt myself begin to fatigue. I was still excited to sight-see, but I felt myself yearning for a calm that hadn’t been around for five or so years. This made me reevaluate all the places I had been and appreciate the adventure of it all but ultimately made me decide to relocate and stay in the D.C. area.
The decision to stay still for a while comes with a fear of being stagnant. the good thing is that I chose a place and a field with a pace fast enough to keep up with my desire to go, go, go. If you’re like me, you need both variety in life and a place to call home.
My best advice is to use your travels to your advantage. Consider where you’ve been to decide where you want to try and build a home for yourself. For me, it’s D.C. For you, it might be Europe, China, South America, Texas, etc.
The most important thing is to understand having a home does not necessarily mean life slows to a stop. You can plan trips and find adventures in life if you work hard enough. I already have a trip booked to Puerto Rico in October. It helps to always have a trip on your calendar to work towards.
If you’re like me, with a thirst for adventure, you too can balance life and adventure. That’s why I chose global event management as my niche field. My political experience makes me an excellent candidate for planning political affairs across the world, hence, I will probably travel <60 percent of the time, giving me the change in work environment I need to be happy.
So go out, find your adventure and keep the fire going, even when you find a home. The world will be out there waiting for you to explore. Use those vacation days and never let your youth die.
Stay tuned for my next blog post where I will give advice on how to travel domestically and internationally on a budget!